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Woods builds two-shot lead over Chopra, Beem in circus


Published: Sat, March 4, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


Tiger Woods escaped from all the trouble around him to fired a 4-under 68.
MIAMI (AP) -- The shots were flying all over the 18th hole at the Blue Monster, behind banyan trees and corporate chalets, in the water on the left and the opposite fairway on the right.
One guy made a 65-foot putt for birdie. Another one missed a 3-foot putt to take double bogey.
What was billed as a showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson turned into a circus Saturday afternoon until Woods restored order with a simple par.
Carving a 6-iron out of the trees to steer clear of all the trouble around him, Woods escaped with a 4-under 68 to build a two-shot lead over Daniel Chopra and Rich Beem in the Ford Championship at Doral.
"I'm in good shape, I guess," Woods said after an exhausting day in which he got his mistakes out of the way early, recovering from a double bogey at No. 9 with three straight birdies on the back nine to emerge from the pack.
Woods had to wait 25 minutes on the 18th tee while Camilo Villegas studied his options, long enough to order pizza.
"Probably would have got it when we were on the fairway," Woods said.
Mickelson out $200
He would have had to pay for it, because Mickelson was already out $200 after giving a man money for breaking his watch with an errant 3-wood into the gallery at No. 10.
Indeed, there was no shortage of entertainment for a record crowd of 37,000.
*Villegas was one shot out of the lead, saw Woods atop the leader board, and hit his tee shot squarely behind a banyan tree. He played sideways to the first fairway, had the gallery moved out of harm's way, took a drop away from the chalets, then deposited a majestic 8-iron over everything to 30 feet.
And then he three-putted for double bogey and a 71 to fall three shots behind.
"Unfortunately, I just missed a short one there to go home," he said.
*Chopra was lost in the trees and hoping to make par when he grabbed a 5-iron and looked for a way out. He went under one tree, over another, left of a third three and right of a fourth tree, barely on the green. Then he made birdie with a 65-foot putt for 68.
"The ideal finish," he said.
Paid for broken watch
*Mickelson was tied for the lead after nine holes when Woods made his double bogey, and thought everything was falling his way when he overcooked his 3-wood into the gallery and it took a fortuitous hop toward the green. Then he found the man he hit, and noticed his watch was broken. Lefty pulled two $100 bills from his bag to pay for it.
"It wasn't a Rolex," Mickelson said.
It wasn't his day, either. He hit a pedestrian pitch and two-putted for par, then slowly lost ground. He finished by hitting a 4-iron off barren land and onto the green, with enough spin to send it down the slope, off the green and into the water.
"An interesting day," Mickelson said. "Obviously, it wasn't what I hoped. But the great thing about today was it was not the last day. There's one more day tomorrow."
As for that pairing with Woods?
"Because it was not the final round, I wasn't really concerned," Mickelson said after his 73. "I should be now. I'm four back, and I've got to make a run tomorrow."
When the zaniness subsided as the orange glow of the sun dipped behind the clouds, Woods was atop the leader board at 17-under 199 and poised to win for the second straight year at the Blue Monster.
Woods is 33-3 on the PGA Tour when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead.
Woods and Chopra
Instead of Mickelson at his side, Woods will be paired with Chopra, who birdied two of his last three holes and was at 15-under 201. Also two shots behind was Beem, the former PGA champion, who was terrified of the Blue Monster's closing hole until he birdied it for a 69.
David Toms wasn't so fortunate. He was in rough so deep that he laid up short of the water, then failed to convert par from 92 yards and had to settle for a 70, leaving him at 14-under 202 along with Villegas.
It will take some work to catch Woods, who is dominant with the lead.
"If you're leading, you're playing pretty good," Woods said about his record going into the final round.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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